Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive and Thrive snagged the Paris Book Festival Award just in time for Back to School!
An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School
teach• er |ˈtē ch ər| noun (official definition) – a person who teaches, esp. in a school; an adult role model who indoctrinates the younger generation intellectually, morally, and socially; one who helps others learn, as by example. teach• er |ˈtē ch ər| noun (middle school student’s definition) – an adultish type person who slugs coffee, wears bad ties, frumpish jumpers, and who decided (due to his/her own scarred teenage existence) to torture kids by inducing parental groundings through frequent phone calls home to report defective grades and deplorable behavior. Resulting outcome: avoid and ignore efforts; torture whenever possible.
Okay, J.K.!! Teachers should be respected. After all, most educators enjoy working with kids and some actually have something to teach us. They are a guiding force in the molding of us adolescents and essentially our guardians from 8 to 3, Monday through Friday. However, there ARE exceptions. And the thing about middle school is you will have several teachers to deal with – not just one like in elementary school. However, baring a few things in mind, you should adapt just fine.
The first thing to realize about middle school teachers is there are certain types. Nice and mean, right? Actually it’s more complicated than that. There are as many teacher types as there are personalities. There are teachers who are nice, friendly, lenient, strict, dumb, smart, scary smart, funny, so-funny-they-should-be-a-comic-funny, boring, so-boring-they-put-you-in-a-coma-boring etc. We’re going to focus on three basic types you will certainly come across in middle school, the telltale identifiable signs, and tips on how to deal with them to your advantage.
The Taskmaster Control Freak/You-Ain’t-Doin’-Nothin’-in-My-Class/Lecturer
These types of teachers became teachers so they could hear themselves talk. The truth is that they have no interest in you or what you have to say. You’ll know them by the classroom arrangement, which consists of unyielding vertical rows with their bully pulpit lectern front and center. Don’t even think about asking to use the bathroom or going to your locker, as the hall pass is simply an accessory for the Taskmaster (i.e., not to be used). And, don’t get sick in their classrooms because you ain’t leaving! Their stock answer for everything is “No!” They have no sense of humor and no sense of mercy. We advise lying low in their classes, as their tolerance for any kind of adolescent shenanigans is nonexistent. Hand in your homework on time and keep a low profile. Cheating, passing notes, and otherwise acting up are unheard of in the Taskmaster’s classroom.
The Fossil/I-Had-Your-Grandmother-and-Will-Have-Your- Children’s-Children-and-Never-Ever-Retire Teacher
The Fossil tends to linger in the math and science departments. They are well known throughout the local community—and for good reason. They’ve been around forever, and as a result, they have built a solid reputation. They’ve been around so long that their “Just Say No” antidrug posters from the ’80s have an inch of dust caked to them. They use the same old lesson plans, projects, and activities they’ve had since college. Basically, they do their jobs on cruise control and aren’t apt to press the accelerator anytime soon.
Mr./Ms. Good Time/I-Want-to-Be-Liked Teacher
Mr. and Ms. Good Time are usually young and fresh out of college, and their entire educational philosophy is based on being liked. These teachers tend to be easy graders and give less homework (with the exception of a deep fondness for projects) than the others. Their strength is creativity and working outside the textbook (think complete opposite of the Taskmaster). The best thing to do in Mr. and Ms. Good Time’s class is to get them off topic by asking some real-world questions. Also, convince them that a once-a-week party is academically beneficial and aligns perfectly with the standards. Other things to try are having them take you outside, watching teen angst movies, and throwing Game Day because it promotes personal development and self-esteem.
So good luck as you start middle school. We know you will get "a handle" on those teacher types soon enough, but this should give you the jumpstart needed as you head to that first class.
Until next time...Hearts and Sharpies!
Lucy and CeCee
With this week's much talked about release of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, I couldn't help but think back on the effect To Kill a Mockingbird had on me as an eighth grader. Its message still resonates with readers today as it imparts a powerful lesson: empathy.
Scout learns how to empathize with people who are different than her, many of whom are symbolic mockingbirds shunned by society, including Walter Cunningham, Boo Radley, Mayella Ewell, and Tom Robinson. As Atticus explains to Scout, "“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
I haven't taught To Kill a Mockingbird for several years, but I picked up a copy this weekend and started to read it. I was of course transfixed and before I knew it, created several projects and activities for my future students.
So when was the last time you read To Kill a Mockingbird? How well do you remember the book? Take the quiz below to find out:
To Kill a Mockingbird Recall Quiz
1) What is Dill’s real name?
(A) Jack Harris
(B) William Peter Harris
(C) Charles Baker Harris
(D) Truman Harris
2) What does Jem use to try to deliver a message to Boo Radley?
(A) A fishing pole
(B) A rock
(C) A paper airplane
(D) A slingshot
3) What does Scout dress up as for the Halloween pageant?
(A) An eggplant
(B) A ham
(C) A werewolf
(D) A mouse
4) The story takes place in
(A) Atlanta, Georgia
(B) Maycomb, Alabama
(C) Nashville, Tennessee
(D) Maycomb, Georgia
5) What is the name of the mad dog?
(A) Heck Tate
(B) Tom Johnson
(C) Tim Johnson
(D) Dolphus Raymond
6) Tom Robinson's wife is named
7) During the trial, Atticus proves -
(A) Tom Robinson wasn’t even in town the night of Mayella’s alleged rape.
(B) Mayella Ewell is a perpetual liar and needs psychologcial help.
(C) Tom Robinson is left-handed and therefore, guilty.
(D) Mayella Ewell was most likely beaten up by a left-handed man.
8) During the trial, what makes Mayella think Atticus is making fun of her?
(A) He shakes her hand.
(B) He calls her Miss Mayella.
(C) He sneers when she tells her story.
(D) He laughs at what she’s wearing.
9) What does Atticus read to Scout the night of Bob Ewell’s attack?
(A) The Bible
(B) The Gray Ghost
(C) The Maycomb Tribune
(D) Robinson Crusoe
10) How does the Sheriff contend Bob Ewell died?
(A) Heart attack
(B) Boo Radley stabbed him.
(C) Jem Finch stabbed him.
(D) He fell on his own knife.
1) C, 2) A, 3) B, 4) B, 5) C, 6) D, 7) D, 8) B, 9) B, 10) D
"[Courage] is when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Should one believe the hype about Skype? Absolutely, yes!
My most recent Skype author visit was with the phenomenal fourth grade students from Schwarzkopf Elementary School in Lutz, Florida. While nothing can replace a personal visitation, Skype allowed for an efficient, rewarding experience, bringing the students and me together in a personal and entertaining format. The precocious tweens had prepared questions in advance and having read Lucy and CeCee’s How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School, they were eager to discuss the book and writing process in general. In short, it was a glorious morning!
So for us non-techy types, what exactly is Skype? Skype is an Internet telephone service that allows one to connect with others by video, telephone, or voice messaging. Once you download the Skype software, setting up an account is relatively easy, and utilizing basic services such as video calls is free, which is economical for schools that are often challenged with limited budgets.
Some Skype Author Tips I share with librarians and teachers to help the presentation go smoothly as possible and maximize our time together include the following:
➢Download Skype and open an account if your school doesn’t have one already. (Contact your technology coordinator to make sure you can use the software. Some districts block programs like Skype, and if that’s the case, you’ll want to see if it’s possible to unblock it for your program). Test it out at school to make sure it works.
➢Contact the author to arrange your virtual visit. Set a date and time and decide which videoconferencing program you’ll use and who will initiate the call.
➢Plan the presentation. How long will it last? Will students gather around a computer or will the author be projected on a big screen? Where will kids stand or sit so they can be seen and heard? Have kids write questions on index cards in advance to keep the discussion moving.
➢The day before, set up a “trial call” with the author to make sure everything is working on both ends.
➢Make sure the kids understand that your connection may be lost temporarily during the chat. It helps to have a plan in place for when that happens.
➢On the day of the presentation during Q and A, if the kids seem reticent, you might start things off with a question or two to prompt discussion.
➢If your connection is lost, don’t panic. Just call the author back. It may take a few tries before you establish a good connection.
➢Keep an eye on the clock, and let students know when it’s almost time to wrap up the discussion.
Skype author presentations are a win-win for both authors and schools, who most certainly will integrate them into prevailing Blended Learning curriculum and digital instruction. They are a time saver for busy authors and a money saver for schools. Most importantly, Skype author presentations provide an opportunity for an interactive connection among the literary troika of author, student, and text. Online, interactive school visits are the wave of the future as students, authors, and educators can dialog about the joy of expressing oneself through the written word.
Teachers are wild about Word Walls for good reason - they work! Everyone is affected by what they see and Word Walls serve that very purpose. Students can literally read the room with eye-catching, engaging Word Walls. Furthermore, Word Walls add to a best practice, print-rich environment that is a critical component of emerging literacy.
What exactly is a Word Wall?
A Word Wall is a collection of related words, which are displayed on a wall or bulletin board for visual reference when reading, writing, or speaking. The ideal Word Wall is a teacher AND student-created artifact - an interactive, work-in-progress exhibit that is added to weekly or even daily. There are many types of Word Walls specific to the ELA classroom, such as Sight Word Walls, Literature Based Word Walls, Seasonal Word Walls, Writing Word Walls, Spelling Word Walls, Parts of Speech Word Walls, Phonics/Phonemic Word Walls, Content Area Word Walls, and Unit/Chapter Word Walls.
10 Reasons to be Wild About Word Walls…
•Word Walls support the teaching of key words and subject-specific terminology.
•Word Walls promote independence in reading and writing by building vocabulary support.
•Word Walls are a visual daily reference, as students retain what they see.
•Word Walls are a high-yield strategy that can be used across the curriculum.
•Word Walls create a classroom that is a print-rich environment.
•Word walls encourage student participation and engagement.
•Word Walls are an interactive reference tool that can be used daily in reading, writing, and speaking.
•Word Walls can easily replace boring, tedious worksheets or packets.
•Word Walls can be used for quick progress monitoring and assessment.
•Word Walls are extremely effective for English Language Learners.
WORDS of Advice for Effective Word Walls
•Print Word Wall Cards on card stock.
•Ideally print in color, but grayscale will work too.
•If you laminate your Word Wall cards, they will last for years.
•Refer to Word Walls in your daily instruction, and encourage students to do so as well when reading, writing, or speaking.
• Word Walls are a work in progress and should be a growing student-created artifact. Have your students add to the working Working Walls in your classroom on a weekly or even daily basis.
For ELA Word Wall Products, visit my store at TeachersPayTeachers:
As we all fondly recall, summer vacation is the ultimate! Staying up late into the night, basking in the golden sun, slurping up frothy ice cream concoctions, and yes - hopefully reading a good book or two or three...or three in one day. And why not? It's summer, after all.
Here is a list of twelve of my fave summer reads for tweens and teens. The list includes some classics and some contemporary, depending on personal choice. Either way, tweens/teens will have a blast getting their read on!!!
Kimberly's 2015 Summer Reading List for Tweens and Teens
1) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Buon Appetito, a multicultural celebration food book that supports early literacy for the emergent reader, is now available by Schoolwide, Inc.
Synopsis: Children come from all around the world, and so do foods. Come celebrate a world-traveling feast with the children of Signora Fina's class. As each student presents a type of food from a different country, you'll think about the foods you like to eat–and you may get a bit hungry, too! Although Buon Appetito is written with the ELL student in mind, its universal message of inclusion and celebration can be enjoyed by any child.
If you are not familiar with Schoolwide, check out their website at http://www.schoolwide.com/zing where they are opening the door to a world of teaching and learning possibilities with Zing, the new, premier digital library.
Zing opens the door to a world of teaching and learning possibilities by providing access to thousands of fiction and nonfiction eBooks and short digital texts (articles, essays, poems, and primary sources) in English and Spanish. Additionally, Zing's unmatched selection of authentic texts includes popular award-winning authors and titles from a vast array of publishers.